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Which means, of course, that I have been through the childbirth experience and emerged on the other side.

The babies are definitely the coolest things to have come out of my vagina.

Which means yes, I delivered twins vaginally, which earned me quite the kudos in the hospital and quite the looks from people who think it is their business to ask such things.

I was induced Wednesday night, and given Cervadil, which was supposed to “soften” my cervix (finish effacing and thinning it) in preparation for the actual induction the next day.  The nurse said everyone reacts to the Cervadil differently, which is a nice thing to say when I lasted about an hour before intense contractions started piling up ever 45 seconds.  There was no time to use our well-rehearsed breathing exercises as contractions became more intense.  They started at a 10, and just kept going.  I was not supposed to walk around, as the babies were on a monitor, but only walking around gave me any measure of relief.  Due to hospital policy, I was stuck in bed, however.

An hour later, anesthesiology was giving me the epidural I had been undecided and open-minded about.  The effects were amazing and almost instantaneous.  I turned from a shaking, screaming banshee who was breaking into cold sweats, into a rational human being who played Skip-Bo with her husband.

My daughter decided she wanted to come out before I was fully dilated, so she started descending and sitting, basically, (well, head-standing) on my coccyx, for several hours.  So even though I had good “coverage” with the epidural, and was numb, she exerted incredible pressure on my ass every time I had a contraction.

Those contractions?  Never got more than 5 minutes apart and were usually 2-3 minutes.

For 22 hours.

Anesthesia, who was MIA by this point, wouldn’t be able to relieve “pressure”, only pain, so my only option once I hit a contraction was a nurse’s suggestion to apply my own counter-pressure.  This meant that my birth partner (see: husband) pushed and held a frozen diaper (standard hospital equipment on the L&D floor) against my coccyx for every contraction.  Things became glamorous.

My doctor, who was in the hospital on Thursday, had to leave by “5 or 6”, but I was dilating so slowly (several hours from 2-3cm, several more from 3-4cm), that we were on the clock, praying she’d be able to be there to deliver the babies.

Five and six pm both passed, and all that was left were contractions through my ass.  They tell you you might poop during childbirth, but they don’t tell you you feel like you have to poop for 22 hours.

I was able to wedge a frozen diaper in such a position that we could watch Jeopardy!, when nurse Laura said she thought she saw signs of “earlies” on the fetal monitor, which signifies something significant.  At any rate, the OB who had just come on checked me, and by 8pm, I was being wheeled into the OR.

Since I was having twins, and each baby gets a “team”, a regulary L&D room is just too small for the delivery.  All twin deliveries happen in the OR.  I was excited to finally be doing something, excited to relieve the gotta-poop feeling, excited to get to be an active participant in the birth.  I was transfered to the OR table, and immediately cowed by the 3  enormous lights above me.  Fourteen people at least shouting at me, different directions, different instructions.  I screamed while I was pushing, ’cause it fucking hurt.  That elicited many refrains of, “Don’t scream” as I was kind of wasting energy and breath that could be used for pushing.  So I started crying, “I’m sorry,” which only made them admonish me not to be sorry.

Once again, the breathing exercises were out the window as I couldn’t focus with everyone screaming at me and the lights glaring.  I couldn’t hear the 10-second counts, and I felt like the heads I was trying to pass were bowling balls.

After what felt like forever but was more like 43 minutes, my daughter was born.  I was delirious with sleep-deprivation from the night before (and past several weeks), as well as the pain meds they were pushing.  I heard her cry, and I said, “Baby!” as if it had just now occurred to me that pregnancy usually yields live, screaming babies.  They said push if I felt I had to push.  I still felt like I had to poop, not push, but had already delivered one child that way, so I started pushing again.  Fourteen minutes later, little brother was born.  In all the hysteria, I didn’t realize he wasn’t doing so well at birth.  In some part because I pushed him out so quickly, he didn’t get all the squeezing benefits of being compressed in the birth canal, which can help to initiate breathing.  I caught a glimpse of him, and he was completely white.  I thought he was covered in vernix, the white, waxy substance that protects fetuses from amniotic fluid, but he was white because he wasn’t breathing.  I only found this out later, as my husband finally revealed, thanks to my insecurities about their health.

“Are they really fine?” I begged.  “Are they really perfect?” I was in disbelief, I was frantically worried someone was keeping something from me.  E. had only received a 1 on his initial APGAR.  He wasn’t breathing on his own.  His color was terrible.  As they say to assuage mothers, “Many babies need some help.”  Truthfully, he did only need a little help — they suctioned him, gave him a few breaths with a BVM, and soon he was screaming, too.  Now, at 18 days old, he often won’t stop.

My biggest triumph at this point is having carried twins to 38.5 weeks, and having had such a thoroughly uncomplicated pregnancy that I was able to deliver two healthy babies vaginally.

My biggest disappointment was in losing control, losing track of my birth plan, being unable to follow through with my first parenting decisions.

Because L. was jaundiced, it was essential she clear out the bilirubin from her system, and she ended up taking formula from a bottle.

Because E. lost too much of his birth weight (when you’re 5lb5oz, it’s more of a concern than if you’re 8lbs), we were supplementing him with formula.

Because of the madness in the OR, and E.’s low one-minute APGAR, I didn’t get to hold either child until we were all in recovery.  And Mr. Apron didn’t cut either cord.

Because I ran out of time, I didn’t get to bank/donate their cord blood.

Because breastfeeding was so hard, both babies lost weight and the pediatrician told us it was medically necessary to supplement with formula.

Because my parents don’t listen, they bought us diapers in the wrong size, sizes which will fit them when they are big enough to be in cloth diapers, which is our intention once they are out of the newborn-shit-every-twenty-minutes phase.

Because the babies screamed their heads off the first two nights and wouldn’t sleep, we began using pacifiers almost immediately.

Because I was too tired and emotionally distraught to be patient enough to breastfeed at the 12am, 3am, and 6am feedings, and we felt the pediatrician’s mandate breathing down our necks, we began bottle-feeding overnight, while I pump.

We weren’t going to bottle-feed for several weeks.  We weren’t going to use pacifiers.  We weren’t going to use formula at all.  He was going to cut the cords.  Baby A was supposed to be on me until I started pushing with Baby B.  My OB was supposed to deliver my babies.  We were going to donate the cord blood.  And none of it happened.  Every feeding where the babies wouldn’t latch on, and I held out a hungry child to my husband, who would give a bottle of the hated formula to an eagerly awaiting little mouth, I felt rejected.  I felt I couldn’t provide what I knew was the best food for my babies.  I felt the pediatrician was using the words “medically necessary” as a way to derail my first parents decisions.

Mr. Apron keeps telling me that that stuff is all minor, that I need to sort through my priorities, and look at the bigger picture.  The bigger picture always is the healthy babies, always is their welfare and well-being.  But as the items in my birth plan kept getting ignored, steam-rollered, or altered as a result of “medically necessary”, I felt helpless.  I felt ignored.  I felt like my intentions were worthless.  The induction went poorly and my contractions put me in agony?  Big deal.  The babies were healthy.  The nurses pushed meds and interventions on me so I’d be a happier patient?  Big deal.  The babies were healthy.  I had to supplement with formula and risk nipple confusion and interference with breast-feeding?  Big deal.  L.’s bilirubin numbers were dropping, and E. was putting on weight.  The pediatrician recommended Vitamin D drops because breastmilk is “incomplete”?  Big deal.  Vitamins are insurance against deficiencies.

I didn’t feel supported in my decisions as a mother.  I watched all my intentions slip away until I was left with sore nipples, a sink full of Enfamil bottles, a calendar full of doctor’s appointments, and mandates from a pediatrician who I hadn’t even met, as he was on vacation.

And those post-partum hormones coursing through my body didn’t help.

However, we’re all on the mend.  The loopiness from the Oxycodone has worn off.  The babies are back above birth weight, so we were given “permission” to drop the formula supplements.  I’m pumping during night feedings to spare myself some sanity, and I can usually make enough for Mr. Apron to feed them breast milk.  The babies are healthy, for real.  And while I do not fare so well when they soil three diapers in a row, while I’m changing them, or they pee out the back of their really cute outfits, or they break out of their swaddle for the sixteenth time, or one wakes up screaming just as we’ve put the other one down, we are, on the whole, doing okay.

I made it from pregnancy to motherhood, and our little family of two (plus the two dogs) has made room for two more very important members.

Who are probably ready for their 6pm feeding.  As I am little more than a milk factory at present, I must conclude this post.  I hope for many more naps as peaceful as this one, that I may blog some more.

Here are my munchkins:

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Well, as I posted on Facebook, the babies face eviction on the 15th, unless they are prepared to vacate the premises on their own before such time.

And under other thinly veiled euphemisms, unless I go into labor on my own before next Thursday, I’m being induced then. 

I have mixed feelings about this.  While it’s kind of a relief (albeit unnatural) to have a deadline, a timeline, a birthdate (practically, though it could happen Friday if this takes a while, or Wednesday if the Pitocin drip is feeling frisky), and a plan, it feels like we’re jumping the gun and subverting Mother Nature.

If full-term for twins is 37 weeks, and average gestation is 35 weeks, then they can be born now anytime.  It’s not their health or development that is concerning me.  For goodness sake, I’ll be 38 weeks tomorrow, which is pretty much full-term (38-42 weeks is the range, actually) for a singleton pregnancy.  That’s not my worry at all, and that, of course is what’s most important — having two healthy babies.  By all signs, that’s what they’ll be.  I’ve witnessed fetal breathing (practicing for the real thing), and seen numerous ultrasounds.  I’ve felt thousands of kicks, and seen them recorded during non-stress tests.  My babies are within normal range for weight.  Today they were estimated at 6lb 5oz and 6lb 9oz, respectively.  And I’m shocked I can still walk around.  All this is very, very good.

No, what worries me, is a loss of control, a loss of a plan, ironic, really, when we have a scheduled induction of labor.  Much as I’m not the type of person to go to a birth center or even dream of  a homebirth, I worry about jumping into medical interventions when there doesn’t seem to be a need.  I’m upset that continuous fetal monitoring will ruin my plans to walk my way through contractions, that I’ll be confined to the hospital bed, and so miserable I’ll jump at the chance for an epidural, rather than taking the wait-and-see approach I’d planned on.  I worry about the cascade of medical interventions.  I worry about causing fetal distress from inducing labor before the babies tell us they’re ready.  I’m worried that the increased risk of a C-section will ruin my plans for a vaginal birth. 

Sure, I’ve done too much Googling, and not enough talking with my doctor directly.  Of course, she’s on vacation until next Thursday, so I’d have to talk to some other doc at her practice and try to get him to explain her clinical judgment that lead her to decide inducing labor was the best choice.  I should have asked her about risks and benefits when I had the chance.  And I’m not thrilled that I haven’t found any clinical studies or journal articles that indicate that a multiple pregnancy is a reason to induce.  I don’t have any other indicators — pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, threats to maternal well-being, babies not growing inside me, threats to their health, lack of access to medical facilities, being more than 2 weeks beyond my due date — so why?  I should have asked, eh?  I guess it all just made sense in the moment, or at least I made it up to convince myself that if I went to 40 weeks, they might get too big and make delivery more difficult.  Is that true?  Or did I make it up completely?

As any good mother-to-be who has an abstract-sequential personality, I have a list of pros and cons. 

Pros:

  • My family can actually plan a time to be here. 
  • My sister can start her 16 hour drive from St. Louis, and won’t miss more than one class. 
  • My mother-in-law can put in for time off before the frantic phone-call. 
  • My parents can make a hotel reservation. 
  • The 15th is my late grandfather’s birthday. 
  • It’s as far from Christmas as can be, given our Dec. 24th due date. 
  • The babies will (hopefully) be home with us in time for Chanukah, so they can wear the “My First Chanukah” bibs my crazy aunt sent (just kidding about that last part). 
  • I won’t have to worry about a skeletal hospital staffing near the Christmas holiday. 
  • I can work up until the last few days before the Holiday break, and I’ll only miss 2 days of work, days dedicated to packing up and moving from our old building to the new school (work a pregnant lady oughtn’t do anyway). 
  • We can plan dog care. 
  • We can go to the hospital after rush hour, with our bags packed, and hopefully in a lower panic mode, sans regular contractions. 

And then there are the cons:

  • I’ll be on continuous fetal monitoring, and, lacking telemetry, be restricted to finding laboring positions a hospital bed will allow.
  • Contractions won’t be “natural” and are rumored to be stronger when induced with Pitocin.
  • Inducing might not actually work. 
  • It can take a long time.
  • I don’t get to have the realization that I’m in labor, and the opportunity to labor at home comfortably during the early phases.
  • Increased risk of C-section.
  • Increased risk of additional medical interventions.
  • I won’t get to walk around, not even in my room.
  • I’ll never know how long I could have naturally maintained this complication-free, miraculous pregnancy. 

I mean, come on!  Who else can boast a nearly full-term twin pregnancy with a net weight gain of only 25lbs, and babies estimated to weigh over 6lbs each?  Without any morning sickness?  Not on bed rest?  Still able to drive and walk dogs and craft and only having edema in her last week (and still wearing my wedding band)?  Without wretched mood swings that drove her husband nuts? I must say, I have had a pretty awesome pregnancy.  I just wonder how it would have ended, had we given it the chance to end naturally.  And that’s part of my confusion, too. 

When it’s all over and done with, God willing we’ll have two healthy, beautiful, brilliant babies, I’ll miraculously get my figure back, lose the eight thousand stretch marks I’ve incurred over the last 6 weeks, and my dearest husband and I will have a family that all sleeps through the night.  That, of course, is the end goal, one I must not lose sight of, even as I prepare for the end of the pregnancy, and the labor and delivery that will mark the beginning of our little famly.

Let me go on record as saying that while I am approaching that phase most women reach late in their pregnancies where I am kind of sick of looking like a Volkswagen Beetle and feeling like Humpty Dumpty, I have rather enjoyed being pregnant.
I hesitate to apply the word “blessed” to my easy pregnancy as I think some might attribute this “blessing” to other-worldly factors, or divine intervention, but I have been fortunate, extremely fortunate.  Far from my initial (okay, pervading) worries about the inherently high-risk nature of a twin pregnancy, or the looming threat of pre-term labor and/or months of bed rest, the actual pregnancy has been remarkably, well, unremarkable.
I have been spared many of the statistically and stereotypically common ailments and complaints, or at least the annoyances have been late in coming, minor, or easy to cope with.  Morning sickness?  Twice I think I felt slightly queasy.   If anything, not having morning sickness caused me to worry, as I was paranoid I had miscarried, or in disbelief that, after 18 months of trying, I actually was truly pregnant.  Yet the distinct lack of heaving and vomiting let me keep the first trimester a secret from work and family.  Cravings?  I remember feeling constantly thirsty during the first trimester, and craving juicy fruits, but luckily I was kept flush with my need throughout the spring and summer as peaches and watermelon came into season and were ever-present in our home.  My husband was spared the midnight run to the grocery store for pickles and rocky road ice cream.  Swelling?  I’m at 36 weeks with twins, and still wearing my wedding bands.  I still have ankles, even if I can’t see them.  Stretch marks?  My first appeared around 32 weeks, and I’ll admit, my lower belly is now covered in deep red ridges like magma flowing from a volcano.  They itch all night long, no matter how much baby oil and cream I slather over them, but at least I was spared these ghastly disfigurements until 32 weeks.  Hemorrhoids?  Never heard of ’em.  Constipation?  Just drink more water.  Trouble sleeping?  Once my belly became large enough to need “support” I found a pregnancy support pillow called a “Snoogle” and it has been my sleep partner from month 4 till month 8.  Only recently has sleep become evasive again.
The point here is not to catalog a list of woes, or to minimize the difficulties others have had throughout their pregnancies; it is only to demonstrate how fortunate I have been to have such an uneventful twin pregnancy, thus far.
When I began feeling the babies kicking around 22 weeks, I suddenly became one of those pregnant women resting her hands on her belly.  I am addicted to feeling them squirm and wiggle and kick.  Our nightly kick counts, where I just zone out on the couch and focus on their movements until I have counted ten, are moments of pure self-indulgence.  If I’m this hooked on feeling a little foot in my belly, I wonder how mesmerized I’ll be watching their chests rise and fall while they sleep, or seeing the smiles on their little faces as they fall deep into a milk coma.
Initially, as I said, I kept my pregnancy a secret.  Our previous miscarriage made me afraid to jump the gun telling people, not for fear I would jinx the pregnancy, but because of the pain we had endured having to “untell” our friends and family last time.  I didn’t have to tell, either, because I didn’t show for some time.  Though my doctor warned of the lordosis and back aches many pregnant women develop from leaning back to off-set their growing bellies, I was only able to see that I had a baby bump when I did arch my back.  Even at 4.5 months pregnant, on our trip to Ireland, I was barely showing.  I was almost embarrassed to have a belly, to have something to show for my growing babies.  I’m not accustomed to changes in my body shape, and I was self-conscious as I passed into that “Is she pregnant or just fat?” stage.   I often joked with friends and family who wanted to know how huge I was, that I just looked like I had had a large meal.
Now, however, the enormity of my belly is finally a result of having two nearly formed beings inside, and it’s unavoidable, which has also become fun.  As my belly grows more and more comically oversized, strangers’ attitudes have shifted from polite comments and questions, “Oh, when are you due?  Do you  know if it’s a boy or a girl?” (when it wasn’t obvious I was carrying more than one) to more brazen “Oh, jeez, lady!  When are you due?  Tomorrow?”  I have also received my fair share of inappropriate questions and comments, such as our neighbor who asked if it was okay to call my “chubby”.  And the awkward lady at the grocery store, who, upon hearing we were expecting twins, asked if I’d had something “done”.  My favorite is when people ask if we know the sex, which we have kept a secret so far.  My hubby will usually say, “Why, yes, obviously.  We do know The Sex.”  We’ve taken to telling people who ask if we know what they are, that they are lemurs.  This catches them off guard enough to head off any further probing.
The attention is interesting.  Sometimes people are overly accommodating, opening check-out lines just for me, and freeing up chairs when I’ve made it clear I can, thanks to prenatal yoga, be perfectly comfortable on the floor.  Other times, they wait for me to ask for what I need.  Pregnancy is not a disability, though I do take advantage now of “stork parking” at the Superfresh, and try to minimize the number of trips up and down the steps if I can help it.
I’m 36+ weeks pregnant with twins.  The last growth scan/ultrasound (at nearly 34 weeks) estimated the babies each weighed more than 4.5 lbs, and were within “average” size for singletons.  I’m still working full-time.  I climb 63 stairs each morning to get to my office.  I go to yoga every other week.  I’m still walking our 64lb (though elderly) and 32lb (though spritely) dogs.  I’m still out doing things I love, and I’m very grateful my babies and my body allow me to do so.
We were visiting with one of Mr. Apron’s friends when she brought her 1-year old to town, and she asked if I was enjoying being pregnant.  I modestly replied I didn’t mind so much, as I knew she was not the type to embrace her pregnancy glow, and had probably found the belly burdensome to her daily farmer chores.  While I do confess I’m sick to pieces of maternity clothing (I wax nostalgic about my  pants that stayed up without advanced engineering and the closet full of shirts I haven’t been able to wear in 5 months), and I would love to be able to turn over in bed without a Herculean effort (or sleep on my back!  What luxury), it’s been rather enjoyable.  I’m bonding with the little parasites in my belly, imagining what they’ll look like and who they’ll become.  I’m channeling my excess hormones lovingly crafting clothing for them and decorations for their nursery.  I’m keeping busy researching sleep training, breast pumps, and high chairs.  I’m thrilled to pieces to hear that the cribs and the bedding will be arriving within a week.  The excitement from our friends and family is infectious.
With most of the threat of premature labor behind us, and my bag packed for the hospital, I’m preparing for the final portion of my pregnancy, the part that ends in the doubling of our family and the welcoming of two precious babies into our home and our lives.

My sleep situation finally reached its tipping point.  Or should I say, my lack of sleep.  For perhaps two weeks now, I’ve awoken after only 4.5-5 hours of sleep (some night it’s as little as 3.5), and been completely unable to fall back asleep.  I do all the tossing and turning they show on mattress, pillow, and sleep aid commercials, but what they don’t show is the toll it takes on the psychological health.  Night after night, I’d try to coax myself into a peaceful slumber, yet my mind was racing.  It was filled with the torments of my anxieties about our impending parenthood.  The theme was always, “We’re not ready.  It’s too soon.”  I’m 34.5 weeks pregnant with twins.  Average gestation for a twin pregnancy is 37 weeks.  To think that I’m just sitting here placidly at work for 8 hours a day instead of frantically preparing for their possibly imminent birth is ridiculous, or so my subconscious mind would have me believe.  And as my mind filled with my worries, my body began to absorb the unrest.  Suddenly, my Snoogle maternity pillow, which has been my miraculous sleep companion since August, could offer me little comfort.  Suddenly the sheets clung to my pajamas or to each other.  Dog fur seemed to be everywhere.  My nasal passages were at once clogged with my pregnancy swelling.  My throat was dry.  I had to pee.  And then, my legs got in on the party.

I’ve always been a kid who needed to fidget a little.  Not strictly ADD, it was more of a nervous habit I developed – moving some part of my body, so that my mind could focus on the task at hand.  I played with Silly Putty throughout 9th grade geometry to keep myself awake.  I find it difficult to sit through an entire movie without feeling an unbearable urge to shift my body.  And when I’m sitting “still”, I am often tapping my foot rhythmically, or rapping my fingernails against some piece of hard plastic in the car, usually without realizing it.

Now they’ve put a medical term to my fidgets: Restless Leg Syndrome.  The commercials are goofy, and mostly dedicated to (like the ones for fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome) trying to convince you RLS exists, and of course is treatable by their drugs.  My need to move, though, never kept me awake at night.  Now, I think, my bladder wakes me up, my mind keeps me up, and my body keeps me from falling back asleep.  My legs began twitching.  I can’t explain it like the commercials do, like a tingling, or like ants marching up and down my legs.  It’s not even an unbearable urge to move them.   It’s just…moving them.  And moving them doesn’t relieve the issue.  I’d lie there, trying not to think about my legs, and then they’d jerk around on their own.  My feet would start rubbing frenetically against each other, my toenails slicing battle wounds on my calves, my toes, my heels.  I tried to pin them under my no-longer-sleeping husband or dog.  I tried sleeping on the couch and shoving my feet in the crack between the cushions to give them some deep sensory input, or at least to provide some resistance to their twitching.  Nothing worked.  And as the hours wore on, I became so tired and so frustrated with the futility of working so hard to sleep, that I would break down completely.

Many nights, I woke up a sympathetic husband who was at a loss how to help me.  He tried rubbing my back, holding me close to him, and asking if I wanted to talk.  One night the comfort of his body against mine did seem to break the spell and let me fall back asleep, but it was no cure-all, as night after night, I continued to disturb both of our rest.  I would whimper, I would cry, I would wail apologetically to my husband, knowing he had to work in the morning.  I would work myself into thrashing crying fits, working at cross purposes to my attempts to fall asleep.

I found myself at the computer in the middle of the night, the sudden bright lights of the monitor shocking my dilated pupils, trying to numb my brain with Facebook, trying to empty my mind by writing down my anxieties, trying at least to leave my poor husband alone, but nothing worked.  After an hour or so I’d return to bed and fitfully catch another half-hour of sleep in bursts, usually in the minutes before my alarm would go off.

In one of my non-sleeping stupors, I found myself e-mailing my parents.  Panicking the next day that my missive had seemed psychotic, I dug through my sent-mailbox, relieved to find out it had actually been somewhat coherent.  This of course led to a useless phone call with my mother, who chose to focus on my fatigue – not the reasons behind it – by suggesting I somehow slide a couch into my 4’x 8’ cubicle, or take cat naps at my desk during lunch, and compensate by eating half my lunch at 10:30 and 2.  I assured her that if my school had any spare spaces big enough for a couch, they’d have made it into a classroom by now.

Finally yesterday, the sleep deprivation caught up with me.  I had had a particularly rough evening.  The dog, left unsupervised, had destroyed the base of the couch in search of the tin from a pot pie, ripping shreds of corduroy, batting, foam, and Ikea “wood”, sending me into a storm of anger.  She had also eaten yet another one of my socks, one I had thought I had put out of her reach.  In a torrent I lashed out at her, raging around the house screaming, scaring my husband and myself, unable to access any coping mechanisms to calm myself down.  Even after I did, I knew sleep would not be restful.  I woke at 3:30, and I eventually gave up on sleep and instead chose to shower at 5:15 rather than trying to fight the sleep demons for 45 minutes of shut-eye.

I called myOB’s office in desperation.  I had not mentioned my difficulty sleeping last week when I saw her.  I had been running late to the appointment, caught up in rush hour traffic, and had felt guilty running through my full litany of inane questions.  What’s more, every pregnant woman has difficulty sleeping, and the complaint seemed foolish, or at least mundane.  I read about it on Facebook as my peer-group kicks into reproductive overdrive, and recommends pregnancy pillows and memory foam mattress toppers.  I hear about it at yoga, as the other women discuss iron supplements, stretching, and massage.  And I hate the pat response I always get when I do try to reach out to people – “Just wait till the babies are here!” or “It’s just practice for the sleep deprivation that comes with newborns!”  Of course, when I had worked up the courage to actually call my doctor’s office, she wasn’t there.  The entire staff of MDs, it seems, was out yesterday.  So I spoke to a nurse. Through my overwrought fatigue, I managed to convey to her that this had reached a breaking point.  Nerd that I am, I may have said, in my quivering don’t-cry-don’t-cry voice, that my difficulty sleeping was “untenable”.  So she recommended I take Benadryl.

While the smallest bit of caffeine can send me bouncing off the walls, and a Starbucks Frappuccino sets me hypomanic for at least two hours (low tolerance for caffeine is great), the antihistamine has little effect on me, as opposed to my husband, who conks out on the couch after taking one Benadryl.  Through his sniffling and schmulling (did I mention he’s sick?), he took one pill, and I downed two.  I did my yoga stretches, trying to fatigue my legs, and my sweet husband plied and massaged my calf muscles and feet until they could put up resistance no longer.  Maybe it was the placebo effect of trying something new, or throwing the book at my sleep issue.  Maybe it was the effect of the Benadryl, or maybe the fatigue had finally caught up with me.  In any case, I slept from 11 until 4, got up for my customary pee, and was able to fall right back asleep until the alarm went off.

I’ve never been one to reach for the meds as my first defense.  Many days in college I would lie on a scorching heating pad and skip class rather than treat my cramps with Advil.  I dealt with my tongue seizures for years by running and hiding rather than seeking treatment.   And through the early part of my pregnancy, I was extremely reluctant to take even Tylenol (which, of course, was all I could take) for my migraines.  As for a sleep issue, for that, too, I’d rather try my other options first.  I’d rather deal with the underlying issues, whether they’re anxiety or physical discomfort, than chemically sedate myself.  But in this case, the lack of sleep was compounding, and I was having such anxiety about sleeping itself, that I was at odds with myself.  I’d tried listing out my worries, doing my yoga, and soliciting calf massages, to no avail.  My therapist is woefully out of commission for the near future, recovering from back surgery.  And talking to my mother had of course proved futile.  I was wracked with guilt about disturbing my husband’s sleep, and barely able to function at work.

And so I took the meds.  And so I got some sleep.  I still worry about the babies coming.  I still need to talk to my therapist.  I may still need to go through the yoga and the massaging, and I won’t be giving up my Snoogle any time soon.  Maybe meds are not the answer, but they might be part of the equation.

Sometimes I think I can’t remember the Depression, can’t remember watching myself sink into the couch, too upset to move, full of self-loathing, apathy, and passive disinterest.

And then, it all comes back.  It’s only an hour and a half that Mr. Apron is gone – including travel time – but if I’m not glued to one screen (TV), I’m glued to another (computer, iPad), and still immobilized enough that the feelings from the Depression come rushing back.  Sometimes I can “bootstrap” myself out of it by running through a mental list of all the things I allegedly want to do.  I of course reject doing 99% of them, but by latching onto the smallest, least cumbersome chore, I am sometimes able to gather enough momentum to pull myself off the literal or figurative couch.  However, I think my list of tasks is too long tonight, or I’m so overwhelmed in general, that I’m just going to bask in the deluge of being stuck.

The babies are coming, the babies are coming.  I’m at 33 weeks gestation.  At 30 weeks, they weighed in at over 3 lbs each, and I’m estimating that by my next ultrasound this Friday, they’ll be at 4 lbs.  I’m still terrified of pre-term labor.  I had a scare around 27 weeks, where the ultrasound showed my cervix might be getting ready for labor.  Thankfully, I wasn’t showing any other signs, and clearly, I haven’t had the babies yet, but it still shocked me into a hyper aware state, much like how Mr. Apron behaved for about a week after he was pulled over, driving past the corner where he was caught in a speed trap.  After a while, the caution and sensitivity fade, and life returns to normal.

Unless you’re having twins.  They’re coming, pre-term or not.  At the outside, if I go full-term, I only have 7 weeks left.  And if I make it “full-term” for twins, which is only 37 weeks, I have less than a month.  I speak as if I’m facing a terminal illness instead of the birth of my children.  Still, I’m not ready.  I doubt that 4, or even 7 weeks would ever be enough time to prepare, mentally.  Sure, the cribs have been ordered, and the car seats lie in wait.  The stroller is in the basement, optimistic that we’ll ever set foot outside our house again once the babies are born.  I’m mourning the end of our life as a couple, of our life as adult-focused people.  I’m not even talking about so-called adult activities, like drinking, staying out until all hours, and beer pong.  I’m talking about our adult activities, like snuggling in the bed together, watching Antiques Roadshow together, botching home improvement projects together, and evening crafting/computer time together.  Our together time.  I know we’ll make time for these things that are important to us.  I know babysitters (aka in-laws) exist for a reason, and they will provide respite care so we can go out for an evening.  But I’m still scared.  And I know that despite our best efforts (and even successes!) at retaining the essence of who we are, who we were, before children, it can never be the same.

I’m scared I won’t be ready.  I never can be.  I’m excited to meet my babies.  I narcissistically can’t wait to see how they look like us.  I can’t wait for their new baby smells.

I know I won’t be able to have my pity parties anymore either.  There just won’t be a 90-minute block of time for me to be stuck.  There will be diapers and feedings, and burping and entertaining, and soothing and swaddling.  I’m scared.  I’m scared I’ll get stuck even though it will look different than it does now.  I want to enjoy my babies whether their father is home with us, or gone for an hour or a day.  I want to be the awesome mom I know in my heart of hearts I can be.  And I can’t let the Depression get in the way.

with apologies to Margery Williams…

 

“Does it hurt?” asked the Mother-to-Be.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for she was always truthful. “When you are a Mother you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” the pregnant woman asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are a Mother, most of your skin has stretch marks, and your belly drops out and you get loose in the joints and very tired. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are a Mother you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

“I suppose you are a Mother?” said the Expectant Woman. And then she wished he had not said it, for she thought the Skin Horse might be sensitive. But the Skin Horse only smiled.

I have found it.  No, not the perfect pair of maternity pants, not the perfect pair of maternity leggings, not a limitless supply of dresses, and not a society that doesn’t care if I walk around without pants.  I have found, however, the solution to many of my woes: The Bella Band.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Apron and I were lucky enough to accept a large donation of baby equipment (clothing, bottles, a play mat, a mobile, etc.), and a small box of maternity clothes from a coworker of his who is done making babies.  Unfortunately, she loved and lived in jean her entire pregnancy, and jeans about the least ideal piece of maternity wear there is, not to mention that they are the key violation of my work dress code.  So her entire denim stash was out, but buried among the flowy swaths of XL shirts and clingy tank tops was a small tube of spandex.

I made it through my early pregnancy without a Bella Band; I just unbuttoned the top button of my pants and wore shirt long and loose enough that nothing was obviously amiss.  Pregnancy books say Bella Bands (and their ilk) are best for early pregnancy, to hold up your old, regular clothes, or to hold up the maternity clothes you can’t quite fill out yet.  Personally, I’m quite at the stage where I fill out my maternity duds, but I still can’t hold my pants up unless they’re super stretchy and pulled all the way over my bump.  Which causes sensory ills, and seam lines on my swollen abdomen that draw sympathetic looks from my husband.  Enter: the Bella Band.

Last week I tucked it into my bag, figuring I’d try it out on a pair of pants that I wasn’t sure would stay up all day, if I dared pull myself to a standing position at any point.  As soon as I climbed the 5 flights of stairs, the drooping waistband let me know I was going to have problems, so I ducked into the bathroom and pulled on the magnificent tube.  It’s stretchy enough to fit over my whole belly, but thin enough that I can fold it or scrunch it down.  No seams anywhere.  And if I pull it over my waistband, I magically have pants that stay up all day!  Plus, my popping belly button is smoothed over once and for all.

Friday was a dress-down day, but my previous jeans experience had been so miserable I was reluctant to join the fray.  Again, I tucked the Bella Band into my purse, and again, I knew by the time I’d reached my office that my pants situation was unsustainable.  Though they did stay up on their own, due to magic stretch panels hidden somewhere in the waistband, the denim was chafing every inch of my delicate skin.  Again, I hit the bathroom, where this time, I pulled the Bella Band on before my pants.  I covered my sensitive waist with it, then pulled up my pants.  Voila!  Added friction for anti-gravity powers, as well as a barrier between jeans and my skin.

I may have worn pants that were hemmed with safety pins yesterday (I hate to commit to making real hems before I know if my $5 thrift store find is worth the effort) and covered with dog fur (this particular pair was a magnet for blond dog hairs), but my pants stayed up all day long.

If this post saves one woman from the belly pouch panels and drooping elastic waist maternity pants, I will consider my obligation to the pregnant community fulfilled.

“Because your son married a hippie,” is what I wanted to say.

What I actually did was backtrack and talk about how rational and realistic I am, how we’d never go “full-cloth”, how we’d definitely use disposables for travel, day care, or overnight.  How we’re aware of the potential drawbacks of having a week’s worth of urine-soaked diapers waiting for a laundry service, or having to wash them all ourselves.

What I did was mumble something about long-term cost savings and try to share my excitement that these are no longer the previous generation’s cloth diapers.  About how easy the new cloth diapering systems can be, and about the environmental impact of disposables.

I had committed the serious error of answering the initial question, which had been, “So have you guys decided what you’re doing about diapers?”  Mr. Apron swears I should have stuck with my original answer (“We’re still considering the options.”) and left it at that.  But I had also elaborated, mistaking their question for interest, the way one does in a conversation.

When I tried to talk about the two-in-one systems I’ve become interested in, or the laundry services that are springing up, all I heard in return were horror stories about my nephew’s diaper blow-outs, and wrinkled noses at the concept of a week’s worth of soiled diapers sitting in our home.  There was much talk of their concerns of poop containment – or of failure to do so – ironically all examples of how disposables fail.  Though I would think this would be evidence that diapering is messy business no matter what type of diaper the kid wears, it all seemed to just be ammunition for them to, if not exactly attack me, then at least dampen my excitement.

Later, as Mr. Apron and I discussed the ill-fated conversation, he explained my mistake.  I had assumed a question meant they were interested and wanted to know more, and would listen to me tell them things they did not know.  This is a pattern one would assume happens often enough, as I have had different life experiences, and my mother- and sister-in law are a bit sheltered at least.  On the contrary, it was a vehicle for them to prod.  Apparently, the way to answer their questions is politely and curtly, to get the interrogation over as soon as possible with as little angst as possible.

“So, have you researched the safety of the car seats/strollers/cribs/mittens you’re considering?”

“Of course we have.” (a blatant lie)

“And none of these cribs are drop-side, right?”

“Of course not.  We would never buy a used one, and they don’t even sell drop-side anymore.”

“How did your new car [already purchased] do on crash tests?”

“Great!” (better than a Pinto)

“Will your sister be stopping by as she drives from Pittsburgh to St. Louis?”

“No.” (as St. Louis is west of Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia is east, and decidedly not on the way)

“Did you walk over to the house tonight?” (a half-mile)

“No, we unicycled.”  (my new strategy for partially answering this inane question, which crops up at every single visit, as if our trekking in whatever condition – pregnant or not, impending rain or not – is a major adventure.)

The bigger picture, of course, is that I do not need their approval.  I’m going to make many choices with my own children that are different than the choices they made with theirs, and with their other grandchild.  Together, Mr. Apron and I will decide whether to feed them breast milk or formula, whether or not to boil the bottles, whether or not to use pacifiers, which types of child gates to install, what weather/clothing is suitable for outings, and what type of diaper to use.  When it comes down to it, aside from their providing occasional respite care babysitting, we’ll be the ones changing diapers (blow-outs or not), we’ll be the ones paying for formula/breast milk storage bags, we’ll be the ones dealing with the runny noses (which may or may not have been prevented by boiling the bottles), and we’ll be the ones raising the kids.

Unlike their other daughter (the mother of my nephew), whose only child-rearing decision has been to have a medically unnecessary elective C-section, we are walking into parenthood with a clue.  We’re not turning to Mr. Apron’s parents to provide 2.5 days/week of child care, free.  We’re not asking them to take our infant seats to the state police to be properly installed.  We’re not assuming they’re just going to make our child-rearing decisions because we don’t know anything about babies, and never wanted them in the first place.

I’m not under any (Teen Mom’s) Farrah-like delusions that we’re going to be the best parents ever, never make mistakes, and always know exactly what to do.  I don’t for a minute believe we’ll make it through the first six weeks of infant twins without massive amounts of support from both our families.  But I do believe we can make our own decisions about them when it comes to what’s important to us.  We’re not leading them into traffic, bathing them in lead paint dust, or sticking beer in their bottles.

I just wish I could assert myself better and more often, especially when my beliefs/decisions are questioned.  Or else learn to recognize all interrogative statements as such, and not as merely questions meant to show interest or start a pleasant conversation.

Apparently, having coffee at my in-laws’ is more like Guantanamo Bay than I first realized.

No, I didn’t cop out and try to skip a few weeks, hoping you wouldn’t notice.  It turns out that The Bump is the one responsible for misleading and misrepresenting the fruit/veg of the week.  They show only the papaya for weeks 22-24, inclusive.  Apparently, at this point in the pregnancy, gestational real estate is getting tight.  It’s a seller’s market, really, and the fetuses are locking in a bidding war not only with each other, but also with my bladder, my lungs, the rest of my internal organs, and the outer limitations of my flesh.  So, there not being much womb to grow, they’re just growing at a slower pace than before.  Average size is also a range, probably corresponding to a median size.

When I finally went to the market and picked up 2 papayas and held them next to my bulging abdomen, it didn’t make any sense.  They were just too big.  I began to think I had picked up freakishly large papayas.  So I measured one when I brought it home:

Seriously, there are two of these inside me?

And then I double-checked The Bump:  10.5-11.8 inches.  As Marisa Tomei says in “My Cousin Vinny”: Dead on Balls Accurate.  My only way of rationalizing the number of inches is to consider that babies are now (post week 21) measured head -to-toe, not crown-to-rump, and they’re all curled up in fetal position.   They’re not all stretched out, like my papayas.  Except when they start kicking my ribs and punching bladder.  Then, I’m not so sure.

If you've never had the pleasure of cracking open a papaya, this is what it looks like. Orange flesh filled with caviar.

Mr. Apron set at once trying to taste the caviar-like seeds.  I convinced him his talents were more useful in trying to extract the seeds.  He did this by sticking his fingers down its throat and making it vomit into the sink.  Now we have a bulimic papaya.

Nasty, dude.


All kidding aside, we did actually set out to make papaya pie. 

 

All the beautiful ingredients laid out.    Here’s what we used to make

Papaya Pie:

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 cups (about 1 medium papaya) fresh papaya cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 9-inch graham cracker pie crust

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Whisk together brown sugar and white sugar. Add papayas and toss to coat. Let rest for 10 minutes.

Place papayas with its juices in a heavy saucepan. Simmer 10 minutes. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. Continue to cook about another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fruit is softened, but not falling apart.

Remove papaya mixture from the heat and let cool until lukewarm. Stir in beaten egg with a large fork until well-combined, taking care to leave the fruit in chunks.

Pour papaya filling into graham cracker pie crust. Bake for about 45 minutes. Let papaya pie cool before serving.

Maybe our papaya was not so juicy.  Maybe we weren’t super vigilant about those 10 minutes of simmering.  Whatever the case, the mixture started like this:
Then cooked into this:
 
And somehow, it solidified a bit much in the process, thus resulting in this concoction, which had to be scraped in blobs from the saucepan:

mmmmm, tasty.

Mr. Apron does not approve.

Somehow we managed to literally scrape together enough of the vlonk (c) and dump it into the pie crust.  On the whole, not really edible looking, we thought, but you be the judge:

Since we suffer for our art (and our blog), the Papaya Pie had to be eaten, preferably buried under a blanket of ice cream.  In truth, it was not so bad, but not our most successful venture to date.

Mmmm, ice cream blanket.

Now what to do with the other half a papaya in the fridge???

Oh, the humanity.  Thanks to our Amazon.coms baby registry, I received an unsolicited e-mail from David Lerner Maternity.  Cute kid clothes and sick curiosity led me to click (before unceremoniously unsubscribing ).  And I found this:

Zippered Maternity Leggings, with pregnancy panel.  Oh, the humanity. 

I love how they list the model’s waist size as 25″.  (without an asterisk telling you it was her pre-pregnancy size) I’m sorry, what was she before she was pregnant?  I don’t even have a waist anymore, and my band-size has grown an entire 4″, thank you very much.  I can’t imagine what pregnant woman thinks a) she’ll look like that if she puts these on, b) she’ll match those measurements any time in her post-partum life, or c) she’ll actually be able to pull on the leggings, let alone bend down to her ankles to close the calf zippers. 

I can barely get my legs in the openings in my underwear, and my shoes are slip-on only, thank you.  It would take a tow winch, some grease, and several immodest assistants for me to be able to get into an Olivia Newton John (with child)-style pair of leggings like those.